Thursday, September 29, 2016

LONG WAY NORTH: EMPOWERS LITTLE WOMEN BEFORE “ANASTASIA” “BRAVE” AND “FROZEN”

By José Alberto Hermosillo
A marvelous journey of courage and love that empowers "Little Women" to the great extent of “Brave” and “Frozen” all the way up to the North Pole.
“Long Way North” is feast an of colors of astonishing beauty in an elegant French animation.
Our story starts in Saint Petersburg where Sasha, a 15-year-old Russian Aristocrat is set to marry someone she doesn't love.
At that time, women were not allowed to have an education in sciences and arts as they are having now. 

Sasha's personality was set for bigger goals. 


The little girl's bravery will take her to places she always dreams to go with her grandfather.
The family’s library was a magnet attracting the curiosity of Sasha and her friend Olga. Their favorite subject was geography: maps and the diaries left by her visionary grandfather, Oloukine.
The family's patriarch went on an expedition “Long Way North” on a ship named the Davia. 

The grandfather was supposed to make history and be the first man to set foot in the North Pole, but he never came back from that trip.
 
Back home, the Tsar's nephew defamed the family's honor by laughing about the old man’s unfinished business. 
Sasha was not happy about that, she had a hint about where her grandfather got lost, and nobody else looked before, no one listened to a young little woman.

She challenges herself and propels on a monumental quest to search for the truth, and vindicate her old man's legacy and the family's prestige.
Sasha’s endurance will help her to reach for the impossible.
Rémi Chayé directed this spectacular adventure in a traditional 2D animation. It took to the French-born artist ten years to make this beautiful film. The conception of this film is an act of love. 

This animated feature was selected as one of the COLCOA’s 15 Must-See French Films premiering in Los Angeles.

Rémi Chayé major influences were visionaries writers Jack London and Julius Verne.


This audience award winner was dobbed in English featuring the voices of, Chloé Dunn, Vivienne Vermes, Peter Hudson, Antony Hickling, Tom Perkins, Geoffrey Greenhill, Claire Harrison-Bullett, Bibi Jacob.
“Long Way North” cleverly mixes time-period history and fantasy. Its symbolism is reminiscent of the beautiful Oscar nominee Irish folktale “Song of the Sea.”

 “Long Way North” is a gratifying, engrossing, sophisticated, and beautiful to watch French animation, that goes out to empower women from around the world. It is suitable for the entire family - enjoyable by children and appreciated by grownups.

Friday, September 23, 2016

GOAT: WHITE BOYS DO CRY

By José Alberto Hermosillo

Surprisingly controversial, "Goat" is one of the most shocking films of the year!

"Goat" is a hazardous young-adult drama that unlocks the debate about the outrageous “Fraternity rituals” and bullying on campuses across America. 

The story focuses on two ambitious brothers with big dreams and high expectations, Brad Land (Ben Schnezert) and Brett Land (Nick Jonas). A Freshman and a Senior, college students, conflicting on opposite sides of a Fraternity. 
During a summer celebration, the white youngsters, party hardcore with alcohol, drugs, and shameless sex.
Feeling left out, Brad, the introvert younger brother, leaves the party early. His insecurities play a significant role in his emotional decisions, as he couldn’t say “no” to a stranger who begged him for a ride. 

Down the road, the stranger and a friend beat the hell out of him. This traumatic assault puts Brad’s well-being at risk making his transition to college even more painful. 
At the University, pledging to the sickening initiation rituals of the Fraternity becomes a living hell for all the newbies, including Brad.  
 
There is no place to run for those “poor rich white kids.” 

The testosterone and the adrenaline run high among the members of the Fraternity. The Seniors' aggressive behavior of  is used to scare and abuse Freshmen and treat them like a "goat" ready for a sacrifice (metaphorically speaking).  
The epitome of humiliation comes when the “goats” become the guinea pigs, pet toys, and all sorts of animals. 

The physical and emotional assaults of the young students are pushed to the limits.

Feeling the pain, Brad, in his desperation, eventually, expresses, “I'm sick of getting scared all the time.”
At one point, Brett becomes aware of the damage he and his buddies are causing to the youngsters (including his little brother), that starts doubting the Fraternity's hierarchical rules. He develops an internal conflict with the dark side of the brotherhood moral. 

The ex-member of the Jonas Brothers band turned into the pop star; Nick Jonas is terrific in his film debut. He plays the tough big brother with internal conflict with confidence.

On campuses across the country, nobody seems to break the vicious cycle of abuse as we learn that professors, counselors, principals, and the authorities in charge of the student's well-being know about the bullying and do nothing to stop the excessive use of violence of the Fraternities, making this crime institutionalized.

Witnessing “Goat” could be essential for parents, teachers, and students to start the discussions about bullying at colleges across America.

The problem of bullying on campuses is not exclusive to white male students. It happens to all ethnic groups, and even to the Sorority groups (for women), it happens to anyone, everywhere.

Other notable films about bullying in schools worth mentioning are the British production “The Riot Club,” “Dazed and Confused” by Richard Linklater, the Mexican Award winner “After Lucia,” the Gus Van Saint’s Palme d’Or winner “Elephant,” and “Klass” from Estonia.

The graphic violence in “Goat” is effective and crosses the line a few times. Still, the picture produced by James Franco and directed by Andrew Neel didn't take the risk of pushing the bar higher and making "Goat" more transcendental, consistent, and edgy.
 
 
Actors Ben Schnezert and Nick Jonas dug deep into their emotions to portrayed such a powerful and unforgettable characters. Although, the film needed fewer dialogues and explanations to continue the momentum gained in the beginning. It needs more symbolism, punch lines, and antagonistic situations to create a significant impact until the end, like “Amores Perros,” and “Blue is the Warmest Color” did years ago.

After seeing “Goat,” I have to ask myself a question: If we continue with this vicious cycle of bullying, abuse, and emotional damage, what kind of world are we building for the next generations to come? The period of violence must end.

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Festival in LA ©2016

Saturday, September 17, 2016

KICKS: KIDS OF COLOR ROAMING IN SUBURBIA

By José Alberto Hermosillo,  
“Kicks” is one of the best and freshest independent films of the year, yet ingenious and original.   

This new coming-of-age story builds tension in eighty minutes of wondering characters surviving in the slums of America.  
Courtesy of Focus Features
The first fifteen minutes of the film seem to be the most extended Nike Air Jordan’s commercial ever. This story is not about an ordinary tennis shoe, it is about "THE JORDANS." 

Once the main character starts looking for what is worth in life, is when the action takes off.
Courtesy of Focus Features
In the suburbs of Oakland, California, we meet Brandon (Jahking Guillory), an introvert teenager who likes to hang out with his older buddies, Rico (Christopher Meyer) and Albert (CJ Wallance). They love to smoke, drink and rap.

Brandon, after being beaten up in a very humiliating incident - he and his friends set off on a quest to recuperate his biggest treasure, his stolen tennis shoes.
 
A confrontation like that happens all the time anywhere, it is real - people can get killed over a backpack.

Courtesy of Focus Features
In “Kicks,” the city plays one of the main characters. 

The teen-drama moves from a small, impoverished ghetto to a more significant and more dangerous part of the town, where the big boys play with huge cars, easy girls, loaded guns and plenty of drugs. 
Courtesy of Focus Features
While the meanest guy in the “barrio,” Flaco (Kofi Siriboe), physically abuses Brandon (14), his five-year-old also is also getting abused.  
Flaco is played by Kofi Siriboe Courtesy of Focus Features
Flaco tries to teach a lesson to his son, but he has no moral authority over him - this is a fundamental element woven through the plots and subplots of the movie.
 
“Kicks” underlines a cycle of abuse. The irony comes when someone preaches respect, while he is no respecting those who are vulnerable.
Courtesy of Focus Features
The young actors of "Kicks" are terrific. They had fun working with director Justin Tipping.
  
Justin said: “I was terrified the first day of shooting! It was like a weird experience and at the same time, it was incredible to work with all of those talented kids.”
Director, co-writer Justin Tipping, Photo by Jose A  Hermosillo, Copyright Festival in LA, 2016 
“Kicks” is a remarkable film debut for the director Justin Tipping.
The musical evolution of the film unfolds the drama.
The director, cleverly, incorporated hip-hop in the beginning to foreshadowing the rap that plays later, showing the transformation of a fragile teenager molding into a robust young adult.
Jahking Guillory as Brandon, Photo by Jose A Hermosillo Copyright Festival in LA 2016
In other parts of the world, some movies about troubled kids have been made in a similar tone. For example, the award winner Mexican production “Güeros,” last year’s independent sensation “Dope,” the Oscar winner “Tsotsi” from South Africa, "My Brother the Devil" from the U.K., and the iconic “Boys in the Hood” by John Singleton.

A ray of hope can be seen in the desolated universe of “Kicks” where friendship remains unbroken.

The film is slightly predictable but satisfies the audience who cheers for the main character, the vulnerable teen who wants to take justice into his own hands. If he succeeds or not, this is worth trying. 


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Copyright © Festival in LA, 2016

Monday, September 12, 2016

DANCER: THE UKRAINIAN BILLY ELLIOT OF ‘TAKE ME TO CHURCH’

By José Alberto Hermosillo,

“Billy Elliot” is a fictional character, the “Dancer” is real.   
“Dancer” chronicles the life of the remarkable male ballet performer of whom the British media named “the bad boy of ballet,” Sergei Polunin. Polunin was also called “The New Nureyev of Ukraine.”


In Polunin’s early days, he had to learn a valuable lesson “dancers have to be tougher.”

His mother recalls his son's fervent passion for dancing and how he had learned the gymnastics first before moving into ballet. 

"Polunin wanted to be the best," his loving grandmother remembers.
To provide with the tuition funds Sergei needed to succeed in dance, his family separated and went to work in other countries (Greece, Portugal, and Russia).

 Polunin moved with his mom to Kiev. The emotional toll worsen when in London he his mother had to go due to a visa problem.

At the age of 19, Polunin becomes the Royal Ballet’s youngest principal dancer in history. His family never saw him on stage. 

Sergei was so demanding of himself that the pain of his body had to be mitigated with cocaine.  
Polunin's virtuoso recognition started in Ukraine, then when he moved to the U.K., Russia, and now it continues in the U.S.A.

Planning his last dance in Los Angeles, Polunin got in contact with the famous photographer David LaChapelle and went to Hawaii to shoot “Take Me to Church.”

Sergei Polunin, "Take Me to Church" by Hozier, Directed by David LaChapelle

Sergei Polunin, in four minutes of breathtaking performance, inspired thousands of fans who could not stop playing the clip over and over. 

In days, the music video went viral with more than 17 million views worldwide.

In “Dancer,” his sexuality was never disclosed, as the story centers on his struggle, his moves, skills, and family.

“Dancer” took nine months to edit, yet was still not enough time to make the documentary flow with creativity and a tighter structure.
The transitions were rough. The story is linear with flashbacks from different sources (video, cell phones, the internet, film, news and TV shows). These were not properly trimmed and timed to keep the movie even in color and mood.

In the documentary, some beautiful dancing shots were seemingly cut out too soon and other moments about his family were way too long.
Director Steven Cantor, photo by Jose Hermosillo, copyrights Festival in LA, 2016
The director of this touching documentary, Steven Cantor, was able to capture Sergei Polunin’s emotions, skills, and creativity with an open heart. 
Film critic Jose Hermosillo, Director Steven Cantor, copyrights Festival in LA 2016

Polunin’s awareness was to use his body with his dancing to give people joy.
“Dancer” is an inspirational documentary about sacrifice and personal growth that deserves to be seen by a broader audience around the world.